There have been films that deviate from the usual superhero formula, and Archenemy is the latest. Similar to Hancock, Archenemy follows the fallen superhero trying to navigate through our reality path, and it works at times, but other times it’s frustrating. It presents a unique message regarding perspective, but the story isn’t that fleshed out to leave an impact.
This approach has worked in the past for films like Unbreakable, the deconstruction of superheroes, presenting a flawed hero, or someone who isn’t aware of the power they possess. Archenemy offers a hero who has been dumped into our dimension, and along the way his narrative of being the good guy becomes unclear. Directed and written by Adam Egypt Mortimer, the film stars Joe Manganiello, Skylan Brooks, Zolee Griggs, Paul Scheer, Amy Seimentz, and Glenn Howerton. Archenemy follows Hamster (Brooks), a teen with a dream of being an influencer, as he meets Max Fist (Manganiello), a homeless man who claims he is from another dimension and also a superhero.
Eventually, the two team up to take out a local drug ring in the city and its boss. Mortimer has proven himself in the past with his work on Daniel Isn’t Real, but here the writing feels a bit hollow. Max is given a fascinating backstory and we learn that he is from a city called Chromion, but his archenemy Cleo Vetrik (Seimentz) attempted to ruin the city, and in the process of stopping her ended up being shifted into our reality. This causes him to age, his powers are gone, the blood in his body is altered, and he is a crazy homeless man to most. Elsewhere, Hamster is a teen who lives with his sister Indigo (Griggs) and they both struggle to maintain the life they live. Hamster is a dropout with dreams of being a social media influencer, and Indigo makes ends meet by working for The Manager (Howerton), an individual involved with the drug ring.
Mortimer delivers on character development, and he will make audiences doubt the hero angle Max wants us to believe, but Max’s arc could have been better if more of the story was about him and his past. Still, this is a solid script that offers a familiar approach while being slightly different. Indigo and Hamster are likable characters as well, and anytime hardships are introduced in a character’s life it becomes easy to side with them. Archenemy introduces Cleo towards the end, and this proves Max isn’t all that crazy. However, her introduction allows her to offer her side of the story and it paints Max as a hero who becomes unhinged at times. Mortimer creates a situation where you will be forced to pick who you believe, which makes this narrative unique.
The performances are good overall, and Manganiello shines in this role as Max Fist, the fallen hero from Chromion. It’s made clear that this alternate reality does exist, but Manganiello’s performance will make you doubt his sanity at times. He walks a fine line between an intimidating tough guy and an insane drunk who enjoys telling stories to make himself feel better. Mortimer directs Archenemy very well, certain moments are gripping and suspenseful. He keeps it engaging from start to finish, and the vibrant cinematography showcased is a great addition. This is his third feature film, and while not his best, he delivers a solid superhero film.
Archenemy might feel like a retread for those who are familiar with this story angle, but it’s still an engaging film overall. Certain aspects aren’t that fleshed out as I’d hope they were but it’s not enough to write off the entire film. It will be interesting to see if this film garners a cult following down the road similar to other one-off superhero films that have come and gone.